CREATIVE David Lloyd

NWR Issue 117


Arthur squatted by the fireplace to warm his hands. The room felt comfortable for the first time he could remember – with sunlight streaming through the windows now that the heavy curtains and lace had been stripped away. His parents had always set the thermostat at sixty-two in winter, and down to fifty-five at night. ‘Waste not want not,’ his father would say if Arthur complained when visiting on a cold February afternoon. The old man wore a winter coat until his elbows poked through. Arthur’s mother could be upset for days by an ink stain on a shirt that, in her words, ‘can’t be made right’. After his mother died three years earlier, of a cancer that spread through her body long before the diagnosis, his father kept the room even colder – punishing himself, Arthur thought, for daring to outlive his wife. ‘You have enough money to make yourself comfortable,’ Arthur would tell him. ‘And you know I’ll always help out.’ ‘I am comfortable,’ he’d insist. ‘It’s you who’s not comfortable’ – which in a way, of course, was true. After arriving that morning with his family to finish packing up, Arthur cranked the thermostat to seventy-five and lit a fire with the remaining scraps of firewood, though it was a mild and sunny early October afternoon.

The movers had hauled out the furniture, which would go up for auction next week. It was unnerving to see the empty room, the bare windows, as if clothing had been pulled off a body. The room seemed twice its normal size – and with sunlight flooding the space, it had become strange, nothing like the close, cold room in which he’d done his schoolwork and listened to the radio as a child and teenager. Now the room could finally breathe. How his parents had loved their hulking couch and matching chairs, purchased on an instalment plan. Today, when the movers carried them out, they were scuffed and worn, the brown-and-green plaid faded to dull brown. Arthur had offered many times to buy his father a new set. ‘Until it’s broken,’ his father would say, ‘it’s not.’ The Barcalounger facing the TV with rabbit ear antenna was in fact broken – the footrest wouldn’t retract. But his father had been most comfortable while sitting in that ancient, shabby thing, which is where Arthur found him after the stroke that killed him, a baseball game flickering on TV.

After Arthur’s mother had passed, his father lived alone in the house. His once sharp memory blurred – and he compensated by talking and doing less. Soon he couldn’t twist lids off jars or carry out the garbage – though as a railway worker he’d prided himself on his powerful hands and arms and had been the arm wrestling champion of his local at the Utica station, finally bested at age fifty by the youngest union member.
More and more Arthur had relied on clues to tell him how his father was doing. Arthur knew his father had developed an eye problem when he gave up reading the paper – cataracts, it turned out. A pillow and bed sheets stored in the closet by the front door told Arthur that his father had taken to sleeping on the couch because he couldn’t manage the stairs. So Arthur hired a woman to clean the house each Saturday and cook his father an evening meal. Many times Arthur had tried to persuade him to move to a nursing home – for the companionship and regular meals. But his father insisted that he wouldn’t survive away from this house – his first and only in America, where he’d raised his child, where his wife exhaled her last breath...

This is a preview story from David Lloyd’s forthcoming collection The Moving of the Water, published in September 2018 by State University of New York Press. He is the author of ten books. His fiction includes a novel, Over the Line (2013), and two story collections, Boys: Stories and a Novella (2004) and The Moving of the Water (2018). His poetry collections include Warriors (Salt Publishing, 2012), The Gospel According to Frank (New American Press, 2009), and The Everyday Apocalypse (Three Conditions Press, 2002). His books relating to Wales include Imagined Greetings: Poetic Engagements with R.S. Thomas (poetry anthology, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch), Other Land: Contemporary Poems on Wales and Welsh-American Experience (poetry anthology from Parthian), Writing on the Edge: Interviews with Writers and Editors of Wales (Rodopi), and The Urgency of Identity: Contemporary English-Language Poetry from Wales (anthology, Northwestern University Press). In 2001 he was a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar in residence at Bangor University, Wales. In 2000, he received the Poetry Society of America‘s Robert H Winner Memorial Award. He directs the Creative Writing Program at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, USA.

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